A handful of Guttenberg teachers voiced their concerns about the possibility of sending 7th and 8th grade students from Anna L. Klein Elementary School to the North Bergen school system, beginning in 2019.
Before the public portion of the meeting began, Guttenberg Board of Education President William Hokien explained that there had been misinformation spread on the subject and he wanted to set the record straight.
“We were approached by North Bergen regarding the possibility about moving our 7th and 8th graders to the new school system,” Hokien said.
Back in October, North Bergen officials announced that High Tech High School will be the new township high school, while the current high school will be used for 7th, 8th and 9th grade students.
“This is why I formed a committee … [to] have all the information of what would be the best interest academically and fiscal impact on our school and town. So at this time, it is just a discussion.”
Despite this explanation, Guttenberg Federation of Teachers President Elaine Heflich said that given the ongoing $20 million construction project at the Anna L. Klein Elementary School, such a conversation should have never taken place with North Bergen officials.
“With the new state of [the] art building almost complete, we were wondering: why was there a committee formed by the board to send these grades to a new district? With this brand new, state of the art building, why even entertain it?”
As Hudson County View first reported in September 2015, the multi-million dollar expansion project includes a new community room, gymnasium, with bleachers and new classrooms – which will be part of a recreation center.
Trustee Gonzalo Perez, who is the liaison to the North Bergen school district, said he saw no harm in having a discussion with a neighboring district where Guttenberg students already go to high school.
Trustee Michael Baruch agreed with Heflich, noting that he was “confused” that the Anna L. Klein school would not be used to its fullest capacity as construction nears completion.
Megan Cohn, an 8th grade literature teacher, was one of several speakers who highlighted the personal learning experience students enjoy in Guttenberg.
“Last December, I was hanging signs for the spaghetti dinner outside of the school when a former student came up the street crying. She literally was sobbing as she threw her arms around me for a hug,” she recalled.
“This student was an honors student, always positive, always upbeat and here she was telling me that she no longer wanted to go to school. She didn’t want to be in a place where her teachers didn’t have time to talk to her about issues she was having both in adjusting and in this teacher’s class.”
Jenna Lanzaro, an 8th grade writing teacher, echoed that sentiment, stressing the close personal relationships built at Anna L. Klein elementary.
Finally, Diane Sanchez, a graduate of Anna L. Klein Elementary and North Bergen High School, said that the the issue of overcrowding also needs to be seriously taken into consideration.
“North Bergen might have a STEM lab, and they’ll have the 7th and 8th and 9th graders there. But, with all the overcrowding, what’s gonna happen is not everybody is going to have the opportunity to use the lab right there,” she rationalized.
“The computers: not everyone is going to have one-to-one (student to computer) like they have here. There’s going to be sharing, there’s going to be special programs and you have to apply and you have to do this because there’s too many students.”
The board took no formal action on the matter at the meeting.